The Most Important Thing

Priorities.  We all have them.  What matters most?  In a whole list of things, what is the absolute crux of the matter?  Where should our focus be?

Matthew 22:34-46 (CEV)

The Most Important Commandment

34 After Jesus had made the Sadducees look foolish, the Pharisees heard about it and got together. 35 One of them was an expert in the Jewish Law. So he tried to test Jesus by asking, 36 “Teacher, what is the most important commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus answered:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. 38 This is the first and most important commandment. 39 The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, “Love others as much as you love yourself.” 40 All the Law of Moses and the Books of the Prophets are based on these two commandments.

About David’s Son

41 While the Pharisees were still there, Jesus asked them,42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose family will he come from?”

They answered, “He will be a son of King David.”

43 Jesus replied, “How then could the Spirit lead David to call the Messiah his Lord? David said,

44 ’The Lord said to my Lord:
    Sit at my right side
until I make your enemies
    into a footstool for you.’

45 If David called the Messiah his Lord, how can the Messiah be a son of King David?” 46 No one was able to give Jesus an answer, and from that day on, no one dared ask him any more questions.

The man who asks this question, is only trying to trip Jesus up; trying to get him to say something that will incriminate him and give them a chance to get rid of him.  He is not seeking to know where his priority is, but in his question, we find out where Jesus’ priority is – the basis for his life, work and what he is trying to teach.

As Jesus answers he underlines the priorities and basis for ‘getting it right‘, living God’s way.  He gives not one, but two intertwined rules:

“Love God” without that as our basis, we will get nowhere.  Whatever we try to do to live his ways will fail and be meaningless.  We can only do anything effectively if it stems from our love for God.  But this isn’t the wishy-washy might change our mind tomorrow love of ‘I love chocolate’, or ‘I love this jumper’.  This is the love and commitment of everything we have – “love God with all your heart, soul and mind” - everything, our emotions, our will, every part of our being, the very depths and essence of who I am.

That is the basis for our love.  But it is not an abstract love.  We don’t just go around with a warm fuzzy feeling about God – we have to act on it, it has to inform how we respond in all situations.  And so the second part comes,

“Love others as much as you love yourself” - loving God must lead to a response.  True love of him will involve love of everyone else, treating them and acting towards them as if they are the God we love.  That is measured against how much we love ourselves.

There are two main problems that can get in the way of that: either we love ourselves too much, or we don’t love ourselves enough.

If we love ourselves too much, we can’t see the other person and their need.  It becomes all about me, making sure I have what I need, that things work for me and my ways.  I am all-consuming and others are missed.

If we don’t love ourselves enough, the problem can go one of two ways.  Either I am so insignificant, that I can’t see how you can be of any worth either; or I feel so badly about myself, I have to spend my time making sure people see me and love me (which probably comes across as loving myself too much), and I have little energy left for anyone else.

This is why these three things go together.

In our love of God, can we find a proper love of ourselves?  A perspective of ourselves that recognises our worth and loveliness, but also our place in God’s love.  From that we have time and energy to see others for who and where they are – and love them with the same love God empowers us with.

So love, intertwined between ourselves, God and all those others.  Love as the priority, the foundation, the most important thing.  All flowing from the love God has for us.

Help me Lord
to live in your love,
the knowledge of the depth
of your love for me.

In and through that,
May I love you,
learn a proper love for myself
and live in true love of others.

Here is Love

That’s The Way To Do It

We all do things for different motives.  Often we are trying to help, sharing knowledge or experience, or passing on advice; it is possible that sometimes we are guilty of manipulation or even gentle coercion, maybe (dare I say it) even nagging, trying to bring someone else round to our point of view.

Perhaps sometimes it seems that the end justifies the means, but is that necessarily the case?  Is there a better way?  A right way?

1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 (CEV)

Paul’s Work in Thessalonica

My friends, you know that our time with you wasn’t wasted. As you remember, we had been mistreated and insulted at Philippi. But God gave us the courage to tell you the good news about him, even though many people caused us trouble. We didn’t have any hidden motives when we won you over, and we didn’t try to fool or trick anyone. God was pleased to trust us with his message. We didn’t speak to please people, but to please God who knows our motives.

You also know that we didn’t try to flatter anyone. God himself knows that what we did wasn’t a cover-up for greed.We were not trying to get you or anyone else to praise us.But as apostles, we could have demanded help from you. After all, Christ is the one who sent us. We chose to be like children or like a mother nursing her baby. We cared so much for you, and you became so dear to us, that we were willing to give our lives for you when we gave you God’s message.

Paul is keen to impress upon the Thessalonians that he did things the right way and with the right motives.  He brought the gospel to them straight.  With no gimmicks, no tricks, no outlandish claims.  He didn’t dress the message up to be what they wanted to hear, and he wasn’t doing it for his own glory.  He just brought what God had asked him to say.

Are we so trustworthy with God’s message?  Can I be trusted to bring it straight?  Without additions, fuss, wild claims or any compulsion to ‘look at me and what I’m doing’.  Do I let God’s message speak for itself without feeling I have to make it something more?

Because God’s word stands – as is.  It is powerful and life-changing all by itself.  Can God trust me to share it?

Lord,
I come as I am,
just as I am,
nothing fancy,
no bold claims,
just wanting to get things right
to do them your way.

Lord,
may I go with your word,
just as it is,
no gimmicks,
no tricks,
no pointing at me.
May your word
stand in its power
and change lives
through you.

Lord Thy Word Abideth

What is Success?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There is nothing finer than trees growing by a river.  With constant nourishment for their roots, they flourish and grow magnificently.

Psalm 1  (CEV)

The Way to Happiness

God blesses those people
    who refuse evil advice
    and won’t follow sinners
    or join in sneering at God.
Instead, the Law of the Lord
    makes them happy,
    and they think about it
    day and night.

They are like trees
    growing beside a stream,
trees that produce
fruit in season
    and always have leaves.
Those people succeed
    in everything they do.

That isn’t true of those
    who are evil,
    because they are like straw
    blown by the wind.
Sinners won’t have an excuse
    on the day of judgment,
    and they won’t have a place
    with the people of God.
The Lord protects everyone
    who follows him,
    but the wicked follow a road
    that leads to ruin.

Sometimes it seems as though the opposite of what this Psalm says is true – that those who do the wrong things get on in life, whilst those who try to do the right thing can seem to struggle.

But ‘Doing the Right Thing‘, following God’s ways is about more than instant gratification and apparent wordly success.  It’s about being grounded in God, following his way, and looking to those things of ultimate worth with him; allowing him to feed us and nourish us and following his ways.  God’s ways may not always look “successful”, but that depends on where you look for your success, and who’s judging it.

Psalm 1